Building Safer Highway Work Zones: Measures to Prevent Worker Injuries From Vehicles and Equipment

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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Summary Statement

A comprehensive study of fatalities and injuries in highway workzones and a set of measures that can be taken to reduce them.
April 20001

Highway and street construction workers are at risk of fatal and serious nonfatal injury when working in the vicinity of passing motorists, construction vehicles, and equipment. Each year, more than 100 workers are killed and over 20,000 are injured in the highway and street construction industry. Vehicles and equipment operating in and around the work zone are involved in over half of the worker fatalities in this industry. Historically, efforts to reduce vehicle-related worker injuries in this industry have focused on improving traffic control devices and work zone configurations to minimize confusion of motorists passing through the work zone and to limit collisions involving motorists. The premise has been that by minimizing traffic collisions in work zones, worker injuries are minimized. However, fatality data indicate that workers being struck by a motorist passing through the work zone account for only half the vehicle-related fatalities among highway workers.

To better understand these injury risks, NIOSH reviewed the current literature on highway safety, analyzed data on worker fatalities in the highway and street construction industry, and held a workshop with individuals from government, labor, industry, academia, and state departments of transportation. During the workshop, participants were asked to discuss measures that could be taken by employers, manufacturers, and government and research agencies that would reduce or eliminate these hazards. This document draws on the collective knowledge, experience, and expertise of numerous individuals and organizations who are intimately involved with highway construction. By bringing together partners from all parts of the industry to discuss prevention of these injuries, NIOSH hoped to improve our understanding of the hazards faced by highway workers, raise the industry's awareness of these hazards, and initiate discussion among all concerned about measures that can reduce these hazards. The material presented in this document does not constitute an all-inclusive checklist. Rather, it is a listing of interventions from which contractors, contracting agencies, and other entities may choose those most appropriate to their situations and needs. More than 50 individuals participated in the workshop, and more than 30 individuals and organizations reviewed prior drafts of this document. Each of their contributions is sincerely appreciated.

Lawrence J. Fine, M.D., Dr.P.H.

Acting Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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